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Francesco da Milano (1497-1543): fantasias (10) & ricercares (12) for solo lute / Sandro Volta, lute

Notes & Reviews:

Francesco da Milano was a composer of the Italian Renaissance period, and like many other musicians of that time, a poet, artist and writer to boot. His extraordinary talents are well exemplified in his lute works, a large selection of ricercares and fantasias. At a time when instrumental and vocal music was inextricably linked, the fantasia, a new invention of the late 1400s, was reminiscent of vocal polyphony, as it strove to imitate another innovation of the period – the madrigal. Both the ricercare and fantasia are highly inventive, consisting of various imitations along the lines of a vocal motet. Da Milano was a master of innovation, and his astonishingly varied melodic lines were highly praised by contemporaries in his time. World-class lutist Sandro Volta has delved into Arthur J. Ness’s authoritative edition of Da Milano’s lute music, choosing ten fantasias and twelve ricercares to enchant and delight the listener. An experienced recording artist, Volta’s repertoire spans many periods on a variety of plucked instruments, but he specialises in Renaissance and Baroque lute music from Italy. He has a profound understanding of the relationship between music and the written word, having published an important study on 17th-century music and poetry, and it is this understanding that underpins his assured performance on this recording. Other information: * Extensive notes on the composer and pieces, written by the performer * Biography of the artist * Recorded in 2014

American Record Guide, March/April 2015
The incomparable Paul O'Dette recently released his own all-Milano set (S/O 2013) on Harmonia Mundi, which I found more subtle and affecting. He also combined the two contrapuntal types with vocal arrangements, making mini-suites - more effective than Volta's long strings of ricercare, followed by all the fantasias. Still, if you prefer your lute bolder rather than subtle, he's a satisfying choice.


Transcendent Beauty
Sandro Volta “Da Milano – Music for Lute” Brilliant Classics

Francesco Da Milano’s genius as a lutenist and composer was common knowledge in his own time (so much so that his contemporaries compared his music to the art of Michelangelo) and now, nearly 500 years later, it’s easy to see why; his fantasias and ricercari are still a standard by which modern players can be judged and still provide a unique source of entertainment for modern listeners.
Just as the word genius is all too often misapplied or overused, so too the word virtuoso; in the case of scholar and multi-instrumentalist Sandro Volta, however, virtuoso is really the only appropriate term.
In this, his latest recording, Mr. Volta’s interpretations of Da Milano’s music show off both his flawless technique (in and of itself a considerable achievement, given the widely acknowledged difficulty of the instrument) and his deep understanding of the music’s complexities.
”Da Milano – Music for Lute” by Sandro Volta will, of course, appeal to the audience for early music, but it should also find favor with the general listener interested in hearing music whose beauty transcends time.

Highly recommended 91/2 out of 10
Oscar O. Veterano

Submitted on 12/10/14 by Oscar O. Veterano 
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